Regardless of the imagination, it is an impressive sight – tens of thousands of people bowed in prayer to mark the end of Ramadan, a month of fasting. At the forefront of the assembly, Sheikh Mustafa Abu Rayyan of the Green Lane Masjid led prayers here for the first time after beginning his journey by memorizing the Qur’an at a young age.
Across the field behind him, rows of men listened intently, with rows of women further back – many with single or even double strollers. The sexes are separated for prayers “to help concentration”, but in the several years I have covered this event, today’s May Bank Holiday Monday version was also the gathering of the most ‘happy’ cries during prayers from babies in arms, a sign that it will be a more family-run apartment.
In the first event, which was held for three years because of Covid-19, there were also no speeches bordering on the political, be it those who advertised Islamic charitable fundraising needs or even councilors who discussed everything from waste to knife crime. The only emphasis this year, organizers told BirminghamLive, would be on prayers. Being as good as their words meant they were also able to stick to a schedule.
Read more:Eid Mubarak – live updates, prayers and celebrations for Eid ul Fitr 2022 in Birmingham
The day began with a light fog hanging over the city center, seen from the railway bridge next to Lille Hede station. Nearby in Small Heath Park on the other side of the A45, volunteers had checked the grass overnight to see if it would be dry enough for a mass gathering. At dawn, the call was to move on.
Usually, long plastic sheets are laid out so people know where to sit, a feature that is said to help count attendance. This year, narrow lines were marked, and worshipers were encouraged to bring their own mats to make the whole event much easier to organize – and to cancel if the sky was open. You can see our photo gallery from Eid 2022 in the photo history here:
There were no “cherry pickers” present this year for members of the press to capture aerial photos – but the organizers sent up a drone to do so that way instead.
The collection inside the park was led by the Green Lane Masjid, but around the corner at the central Jamia mosque Ghamkol Sharif, BirminghamLive was previously welcomed inside by chairman Ahsan Ul-haq, who posed for photographs with three volunteers.
Imam Anis Ahmed told us, “Muslims spend Ramadan in worship and devotion and after a full month of devotion and worship. On Eid Day, we celebrate, we meet each other, we greet each other, and we express happiness in every form.”
Back outside, traffic began to build up along Golden Hillock Road towards the island with Wordsworth Road, overlooked by the usual gathering of dozens of pigeons on a local roof terrace.
Within the gates of the park, on either side, was the strange place with two large piles of crushed bread with chips on top. When BirminghamLive asked what they were for, we were told by a man standing nearby: “They have nothing to do with the mosque or the event. I do not know why people do it. Birds do not want to eat it, only rats . “
Streams of happy people had begun to walk towards the main prayer area, and they looked beautiful green at this time in the middle of spring, while Ramadan continues its lunar cycle by moving back towards winter for each passing year. This year, there were no balloon arches over the park trails to add even more splashes of color, but in the distance, the tower on the Tyseley Incinerator could be seen rising above the tree line.
Thousands of women gathered in the back rows, and many would continue chatting long after most of the men had left the place of worship.
Forrest included the official guests Simon Foster, West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner, Cllr John O’Shea (Lab, Acocks Green), who is also a cabinet member for street pictures and parks (including trash cans) as well as being the senior case worker for Jess Philips, Labor MP for Yardley, a constituency that now includes Small Heath.
West Midlands Mayor Andy Street told BirminghamLive after prayers: “This is a hugely important day and why I wanted to be here. What I have been reflecting on during the last month of Ramadan is the inclusiveness of the Muslim community.”
Asked if he could fast himself, he said: “No, I am full of admiration for those who fast and the self-discipline associated with it. One looks at it with awe. It is a time of abstinence and the whole purpose of abstinence., in many faiths in fact, it is a time when one is meant to think about what one really, really values rather than perhaps the obvious things.
“So it’s a purpose in a number of faiths, and it makes good sense to me. Hopefully, Muslims have had the opportunity over the last month to reflect on what matters in a troubled world.”
Many people looked smart in their original dress or colorful costumes, including a family of Ghanaians from Dudley. They had not heard of the famous comedian Lenny Henry, but were all smiling regardless – their sense of joy for the occasion contagious.
A family of Bangladeshi origin also posed for pictures in their colorful attire. Over by a police car, a group of Somali ladies including Najma Ali were fascinated by the chance to sit inside a police car in the driver’s seat. An accompanying officer said that this particular car did not have a siren, the girls were able to turn on the flashing blue lights for an impromptu series of selfies.
When the prayers were over, the men in the crowd spread out faster than the ladies, but soon families with young children from all backgrounds mingled freely in the area, where Robert Wilkinson Funfair offered rides and food at the start of a stay that will last for 8 May.
Organizers said they had cut back on things this year to try to limit attendance to 20,000. Eventually, they settled on 30-40,000.
As the central Jamie Mosque Ghamkol Sharif also hosted several indoor prayer sessions (most worshipers go to one or the other, but rarely both indoors and outdoors) the area was busy all day, resulting in drivers also parking on double red lines on the Small Heath Highway as well as at the roundabouts themselves, at Poets Corner and at the intersection of Golden Hillock Road and Wordsworth Road.
As befits tradition, Muslims wanted each other ‘Eid Mubarak’ after prayer. Eid is a word for a festival or celebration, while mubarak means blessed. Saying ‘Eid Mubarak’ means happy Eid, or having a blessed holiday, and it seemed like everyone did just that.
Read more:Muslim runners raise money for Birmingham Children’s Hospital while fasting for Ramadan
Read more:What it’s like to train for the Great Birmingham Run 2022 and fast during Ramadan
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